A 147-year-old piece of seaside infrastructure in Hastings, England, is at the center of a nationwide controversy now known as the “Battle of Hastings Pier.” According to The Guardian, Sheikh Abid Gulzar, the new owner of the 2017 RIBA Stirling Prize–winning Hastings Pier, closed the beloved public space last month without notice until March.
Locals are livid.
The historic structure, which underwent a massive renovation in 2016 by Rijke Marsh Morgan Architects (dRMM), is a Victorian-age wooden pier built in 1872. It’s endured a fraught history since its opening and survived multiple fires, the latest of which nearly destroyed the 300-yard pier in 2010. Through the U.K.’s Heritage Lottery Fund and £14.5 million in public donations, dRMM brought it back to life. A representative from the Friends of Hastings Pier (FoHP) said because local residents invested their own money in the pier’s construction, they deserve more transparency from Gulzar about its future.
According to a December 29th post on the Hastings Pier Facebook page, Gulzar decided to shut down access to the pier in order to begin much-needed repairs and improvements. To the public, the pier’s closure is seen as the latest offense by the wealthy hotelier and businessman, whose nickname, “Goldfinger”, alludes to the gold-clad cars he drives around London and the gold rings he sports on each finger. Gulzar recently installed a series of golden fiberglass animals on the pier and announced plans to build an on-site amusement park.
Protests have broken out over Gulzar’s acts, and locals continue to fume over the fact that Gulzar purchased the pier in June for a mere £60,000—a sliver of the millions it took to rehabilitate and restabilize the structure.
Today over 200 concerned #Hastings citizens queued up to go on Hastings pier.#DWP minister & Local MP Amber Rudd attended the protest with the owner @bheardmedia asked questions…https://t.co/R97wuJZX4Z@HastingsInPress@hastingsonline @guardian pic.twitter.com/iChi47lGEo
— bheardmedia (@bheardmedia) January 12, 2019
It’s unclear what will happen next. A spokesman for Gulzar told The Guardian that essential repairs are currently underway on Hastings Pier and it could reopen in mid-February. In recent months, Gulzar has complained about an increase in theft and vandalism as a cause for concern, and repeatedly expressed his commitment to keeping the pier safe. On January 12, he met with local residents and the city council to discuss support in speeding up construction projects on site in order to ensure an earlier opening date.